Wildlife & Biodiversity

Global Eco Watch: Major ecological happenings of the week (June 17 - June 23)

Down To Earth brings you the top happenings in the world of global ecology

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Sunday 23 June 2019
Saiga antelope at a waterhole at the Stepnoi Sanctuary, Astrakhan Oblast, Russia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Saiga antelope at a waterhole at the Stepnoi Sanctuary, Astrakhan Oblast, Russia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Saiga antelope at a waterhole at the Stepnoi Sanctuary, Astrakhan Oblast, Russia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Saiga antelope numbers in Kazakhstan have increased by 55%: government

The number of Saiga antelopes, an iconic species of Eurasia, in Kazakhstan has increased by 55 per cent, the Kazakh government has said, according to a media report. The spokesman of the Kazakh agriculture ministry’s Forestry and Wildlife Committee, Saken Dildakhmet, said in a Facebook post that the total number of Saiga in Kazakhstan was 334,000, according to 2019 aerial results.

“This figure includes 111,500 individuals of the Betpak-Dala saiga population, 217,000 of the Ural population, and 5,900 of the Ustiurt population. It increased by 55.5 per cent year-on-year (215,100 individuals in 2018),” Dildakhmet was quoted as saying in the Facebook post by the report.

If true, it is good news for the Saiga, which is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Kazakhstan is home to the largest population of Saiga in the world.

In May 2015, 200,000 Saigas had died across the Betpak-Dala region of Kazakhstan, with most of the global population wiped out. The die-off was found to be caused by bacteria that somehow became harmful after particularly warm and wet weather.

Canada becomes first G20 country to ban shark finning

On June 18, the Canadian Senate passed Bill C-68, which overhauls the country’s Fisheries Act. Through this move, Canada has become the first G20 country to ban the import and sale of shark fins into its territory, according to a media report.

Canada has already banned the finning of sharks in its own waters’ way back in 1994. The bill, which became law on June 18, is now awaiting assent of Queen Elizabeth II, the Head of State of Canada

The ban came after years of campaigning. Shark finning is an extremely cruel practice in which the fins of sharks are cut from the body while the fish is still alive and the torso is then tossed back into the sea. Sharks fins are considered a delicacy in East Asia, where shark fin soup is a popular dish.

“We recognise the clear threat that the shark fin trade poses to the sustainability of our oceans,” Canada’s Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was quoted as saying in the report. “The practice is simply not sustainable, and it is inhumane.”

More than 500 vultures poisoned in Botswana

A total of 537 vultures belonging to three critically endangered species and two tawny eagles have been found dead in north-east Botswana, according to a media report. It is being strongly suspected that they have been poisoned by poachers.

Vultures are the first to spot carcasses and usually hover around them. The government suspects that poachers who had killed three elephants, had laced the carcasses with poison so that the vultures would not blow away their cover.

Most of the dead vultures are white-backed. Seventeen others are white-headed and 28 others are hooded. All are classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN.

Experts have said that because the vultures have died during their breeding season, the newborn offspring would also be affected.

Gujarat High Courts seeks government reply on railway lines in Gir

A division bench of the Gujarat High Court, in an order passed on June 20, asked the state government to reply about what action was being taken regarding railway lines passing through the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, according to a media report.

The court’s action came after amicus curiae and senior advocate Hemang Shah submitted a report pointing to glaring loopholes on measures to prevent harm and injuries to lions due to linear infrastructure like railway lines.

Shah had been asked by the court to file a report in response to the filing of a public interest litigation last year.

On December 17 last year, three lions were mowed down by a goods train in a revenue forest area near Borala village of the Savarkundla range in the Gir (East) division of the Amreli district.

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